Saturday, July 08, 2006

More on Siblings

Recently, a friend wrote to me and asked,
I'm pregnant and due in December, which will make a 6 1/2 year age difference between my current youngest and the baby. How is the big age difference working in your family? I think the biggest problem will be the baby getting spoiled by so much attention. We're all very excited about a new blessing.
A new baby, when you have older children, has a few unique challenges, but I wouldn't worry about the new blessing getting spoiled by the attention of the others. At first everyone wants to hold, diaper, and care for the baby but like most new toys, the novelty wears off quickly. Eventually, the children settle into a new routine and the baby just melts in and becomes part of the crowd.

A new baby can actually present some helpful teaching time for the older siblings no matter what the age difference. Newborns are basically helpless and totally selfish. My older children figured that out fairly quickly. Babies know what they want and aren't willing to wait until mom finally finishes the last bite of dinner before they demand it. No, they somehow know exactly when mom sits down to put fork to mouth to wail and demand their way. When you have older children you can delegate that and other responsibilities and maybe even enjoy a complete meal once in a while.

Having a younger child also presents teaching opportunities for older children. While I'm training the younger, I'm also training the older in parenting skills. When I became a mother I was clueless. My upbringing trained me to run IBM, not a large household! Having siblings around all day has made my children much more prepared for parenting than I ever was. You can't learn to be a good parent from a class or a textbook. This is hands-on learning as life happens spontaneously around you. You just can't role play learning to potty train in school. Having siblings has also taught them how to resolve conflicts and get along. Avoiding each other just isn't an option like it is in school.

I can only imagine what Elaina would be like if she were home while the other children were away at school all day. She would have been raised very much like an only child. I probably would have spoiled her! Having the other children constantly around, keeps her happy but humble. The older children are frequently allowed to do things she isn't allowed to do. She learned fairly early on that life doesn't revolve around her, despite her best efforts to believe otherwise.

Elaina has also taught us a few things as well. She has taught us to become less selfish, to be more giving of ourselves and our time. We have learned to include her in our activities even though doing it alone would be more convenient. But even more important, she has taught us how to slow down and enjoy life a little bit more. She has taught me to become fascinated once again by the ordinary - that a rock or a daisy is fascinating and worth stopping to look at for 10 extra minutes. She has taught me that even after reading the same book five times in a row, there is still something new to learn. Something I may have missed the first time around.

All in all, I don't think Elaina has been spoiled too much by us. In fact, I kinda think it's been the other way around. And somehow I think we've all become better socialized.

(Note: If you have teens you may want to direct them to the Rebelution. Brett and Alex Harris are doing a feature series on the Mally's and their book Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends. My children really enjoyed their book.)

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